It’s been almost 20 years since the beginning of World War III, and the island of Manhattan is a Prisoner of War camp run by a fearsome, powerful woman named Rolladin. It is the only home 17-year-old Sky and her younger sister Phee have ever known. As far as they know, the war against the Red Allies still rages outside their small community, and Rolladin’s camp is the only place they are safe. Safe until four young men wander into camp, claiming they have sailed to Manhattan from England, a feat no one thought possible with the War still going on all over the world. Determined to figure out what’s really going on, Sky, Phee, and their mother flee the camp with the young men. As they travel and learn more of the city’s and their own past, they discover very little is what it seems, and Rolladin isn’t the only thing on the island they should fear.
Conceptually, this was a good novel. There are plenty of post-apocalyptic novels, but an interesting time frame existed here. Usually, the “apocalypse” has either just happened, in the first few chapters of the novel, or happened in the VERY distant past and no one remembers it. Here, we have an apocalypse that happened relatively recently, but just long ago enough that the main characters either weren’t born or were too young to remember. People were still suffering the effects, but society was beginning to rebuild. I liked this choice by author Lee Kelly because it allowed her to do almost anything she wanted with the setting, and I liked what she did.
I also liked the way Kelly chose to tell us about the apocalyptic event itself. Main characters Sky and Phee often complained that their mother – who lived through the War – would not tell them anything about it. Circumstances allowed Sky to swipe her mother’s old journal, which she and Phee read together to learn about the past – theirs and the city’s. At first I thought this idea was cheesy, but it worked. I liked it better than the over-used storyteller trope. It helped that the story of what happened to the city was a good one. The journal gave the right amount of information, and left the right amount of mystery, to keep the story moving and keep the reader invested.
Now for the parts that didn’t work. Each chapter indicated at the beginning whether Sky or Phee was the narrator. While I generally like two different POVs, this did not work for me. If I didn’t pay close attention to see who was speaking, I couldn’t tell the difference. Especially when the sisters started being attracted to the same boy. I guess this is a spoiler, but you could see it coming for MILES, plus its practically expected in this sort of novel, so I doubt it would surprise anyone. I found this love triangle to be particularly obnoxious, and it really slowed down the middle of the novel. Like, enough that I almost stopped reading, and had pretty much given up on liking the rest of the book.
Luckily, the twist at the end of the novel was fascinating and unexpected. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more complicated, or even interesting, tbh, they did. I don’t want to give anything away about that.
While I didn’t love this book, I also didn’t hate it. The last quarter or so was great. I wonder if the author intends to write a sequel. It stands alone fine, but I also think the characters have story left to tell. I give the novel 3 stars out of 5 and recommend it to fans of YA dystopian fiction.